FIFA World Cup 2022: Plans to expand tournament to 48 teams scrapped
What is the story?
The World Football governing body has decided to scrap its original plan to expand the 2022 FIFA World Cup to include 48 teams rather than the normal 32. A plan that had the backing of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, unfortunately, had to be cancelled due to the conclusions of the feasibility study approved by the FIFA Council which stated that "due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June."
In case you didn’t know…
The first ever World Cup to be held in the Arab world, Qatar won the hosting rights of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in December 2010. The FIFA Executive Committee decision came under massive scrutiny as FIFA was rocked by massive corruption scandals, with investigations still ongoing on the same. Qatar is the smallest nation (by area) ever to host a FIFA World Cup – the next smallest (by area) is Switzerland, who hosted the 1954 FIFA World Cup. Switzerland, which is more than three times as large as Qatar, only needed to host 16 teams instead of the current 32.
Weather is another major operational risk in Qatar, because of which this will be the first World Cup not to be held in May, June, or July. The tournament is instead slated to be held in late November until mid-December. The timeframe for conducting is also shorter than normal, around 28 days, with the final being held on 18 December 2022, which is also Qatar National Day.
The heart of the matter
The feasibility study approved by the FIFA Council summarised its findings as below:
"In line with the conclusions of the feasibility study approved by the FIFA Council at its last meeting, FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighbouring countries at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022."
Despite there being an option to consider Qatar's neighbouring Arab nations as co-hosts to manage the extra matches that will be required to expand the tournament to 48 games, the timeframe to arrange the same was considered too short.
Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now. Additionally, FIFA and Qatar have once again explored the feasibility of Qatar hosting a 48-team tournament by in particular lowering certain key FIFA requirements. A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option. "The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June."
FIFA plans to expand the tournament to 48 teams in the next edition of the World Cup. in 2026, which will be jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.